Thursday, January 5, 2012

klezmer and Hindi music

I wish I could remember all of the music theory I once knew.  If so, I could tell you exactly what similarities I hear between Hindi and klezmer has something to do with chord changes and keys, and "blue" notes and modal scales.  Mostly, the melodies seem to have something in common.  Here's some klezmer, and tell me what you think:

This one doesn't seem to come up for embedding, so here's the link:
This song in particular, whose title translates to "A Jumpin' Night in the Garden of Eden," in particularly reminds me of this one, which I posted yesterday.

"A Jumpin' Night in the Garden of Eden" is also the title of an excellent documentary about klezmer, made in the late 80s and shown on public television. 

Short form:  klezmer is Jewish traditional music.  Longer form:  Klezmer derives its name from the itinerant musicians who wandered Eastern Europe and performed as street musicians.  It has elements of Gypsy and other Romanian and Hungarian musical forms.

Before the late 80s, it's presence in the US was limited to Hassidic weddings (Hassids are the ultra-orthodox Jews who wear long black coats, side-curls (pais), and cover their heads.  Versions of klezmer melodies also showed up in some American popular music, most notably the Andrews Sister's version of Bei Mir Bist du Shoen ("By Me, You Are Beautiful" -- or, to put it in non-Jewish syntax, "To Me You are Beautiful").

This was very popular in the World War II era.

In the mid-to-late 1980s klezmer was revived mainly by two groups.  The Klezmer Conservatory Orchestra came out of the Boston Conservatory of Music, one of the top classical music conservatories in the country.  Some of the students there were itching to find something different and interesting to play, and they came upon klezmer.  As you can see from "A Jumpin' Night in the Garden of Eden," one of their frontmen was decidedly not Jewish.  He is the famous jazz clarinetist Don Byron, who also led his own klezmer band for a spell.

The other band was Kapelye, led by Henry (Hank) Sapoznik.  Hank played traditional American stringband music, and when he was on a collecting trip down south, one of the elderly Appalachian musicians asked him, "What about your own music?"  This sent Hank into an investigation of klezmer, the founding of both Kapelye and Klezcamp (a festival/workshop for klezmer players), and starting to use the name Henry rather than Hank.

This also won't embed:  It's Kapelye playing live on Fifth Avenue in New York. The bearded fellow shown briefly playing tenor (4-string) banjo is Hank/Henry, who taught me to play old-timey banjo (traditional American music on a 5-string banjo) when I was 14.

Another classical music who embraced klezmer is the great violinist Itzhak Perlman:

Perlman is playing here with klezmer legend Andy Statman, who plays both clarinet and mandolin.  Andy also started out playing American music -- bluegrass, which is a jazzy form of country music.  That's how he got to be such an amazing mandolin player.  More Andy and Itzhak:

"Flatbush Waltz" is one of Andy's compositions..."Flatbush" refers to an area of Brooklyn which was once heavily Jewish.

This is probably enough klezmer for starters.  There's another fantastic American klezmer band called the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, and the modernized klezmer of Frank London and the Klezmatics.  I'd also be remiss not to mention the excellent clarinetist David Krakauer (especially because he's the brother of a close friend of Robin's).  Recordings of older klezmer musicians like Naftule Brandwein can also be found. this to your liking, and do you hear anything in common with Hindi music?

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